Comments on Deep Body Relaxation: By Dr. K. Sadananda

I received some excellent and thoughtful comments from Sada-Ji (Dr. K. Sadananda) on the article, “The Method of Deep Body Relaxation.” These comments with minor editing are given below. Thank you Sada-Ji.

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Comments on “Deep Body Relaxation” By Dr. K. Sadananda

Harshaiji – PraNAms

Here are some comments on your article about “Deep Body Relaxation.”

Shava Asana is always done at the end of yoga exercises as a relaxation technique.

However, I would like to add a word of caution for going from Shava to Shiva – that is lying down and doing regular meditation. There is a good reason why the Lotus Posture (Padmaasan) is universally recommended for meditation. Shava or the corpse is considered as inauspicious while Shiva means auspiciousness itself

Also, it should be kept in mind that when one is in meditation, the normal breathing process will slow down and mind becomes quiet and calm. These conditions are conducive for the mind to go to sleep easily. Hence for most meditators, sleep becomes a big hurdle to overcome. Therefore, the Shava Asana (Corpse pose lying on the floor or bed) may not be useful for meditation.

Sleep is the opposite of meditation. In meditation one attempts to stay conscious and awake. That is one of the reasons why meditation is not recommended in the night when the mind is tired, but in the early mornings when the mind is fresh and vibrant. The period around 4am in the morning is considered best for meditation (it is called brahma muhurtham in Sanskrit).

The Lotus posture insures that the person who is meditating does not fall forward. Sitting in the lotus pose is recommended so that the student is stable and firm on the ground.

Yogic texts all advise that the vertebral column and the neck be in straight line (without going into the details of kundalini aspects).

Neha in mediation posture

This way one can stay in meditation for any length of time – awake-vigilant and meditative. Indeed that is the state of mind in meditation to be aimed at.

As Harshaji states, one can easily go to sleep in the Shava Asana. In fact one should go to sleep in that pose thinking of the Lord.

Then one can have Yoga Nidra and blissful heavenly relaxation.

But for Vedantic inquiry, the mind has to be sharp. Our own experience is that we can read stories or popular magazines lying down. But for any serious work, we have to sit up and study. Knowledge can take place only when the mind is sharp. Then, what to talk about the subtlest knowledge about one’s own self. So the recommendation is to do meditation in the sitting pose – if you can.

If you cannot, then alternate poses are recommended.

Now the question is whether one should do meditation in a lying down pose such as Shava Asana! Of course you can do! It is like a drunkard who went to ask a priest, “Sir, can I drink while praying to God?” Priest of course said, “No. you should not drink while praying.”

The drunkard thought about this and re-framed his question and asked again, “Sir, can I pray while drinking?” “Yes of course”, said the priest. So, can one meditate while lying down? The answer is, “of course you can meditate any time and anywhere.” No problem!

Should one lie down to meditate? No, that is not advisable. Sri Krishna himself recommends sitting down and meditating in the 6th Chapter of Bhagavad Gita.

Of course for relaxation – what Harshaji says is correct.

But For a meditator, relaxation is not the goal, but it is only a by-product. Vedantic meditation requires a calm, quiet, and vigilant mind. It is a subtle inquiry within of the very essence of life itself. If relaxation becomes a goal, the meditative mind will only long for that. If the mind settles in that groove, it will not be ready to take a higher flight.

The Method of Deep Body Relaxation: By Dr. Harsh K. Luthar

Deep Body Relaxation

I used to teach Yoga, relaxation, and meditation classes in the late 1970s in NYC to make a living. After the Hatha Yoga sequence was done, students were led through a guided deep body relaxation in Shava Asana (the corpse pose where everyone lies down and relaxes each part of the body). After teaching Yoga for many years, it seemed to me that for most students, the guided meditation while lying down was absolutely the most favorite part of the class. Many students would continue in the Shava Asana for half an hour or more after the class was over. Some became so relaxed that they would fall asleep.

Over the years, I have come to feel that the best posture for meditation is not always the Lotus posture as many Yoga traditions claim, but simply lying down in Shava Asana. The sleeping posture is universal and sets no high bar for anyone to have to overcome. Therefore, it is the perfect posture for attaining Self-Realization. In fact, we know that the Sage of Arunachala, Sri Ramana Maharshi, became Self-Realized in that posture.

Deep body relaxation can be mastered by anyone slowly and many people experience physical, mental, and spiritual benefits from it. I have personally found it to be immensely useful in a variety of ways. My own experience of the Heart, Oneness of Being, came when I was very young. I had been meditating for many hours, sitting straight in a cross-legged position, and my back was aching and so tired that I lay down to rest for a few minutes. I was not trying to relax but it was in that resting posture that this deep conscious relaxation came over me and the truth of being revealed itself with complete clarity.

The Relaxation Method

The relaxation method I use is easy. I simply bring attention to every part of the body and consciously experience it and relax it. I start with each individual toe on both feet and relax these. I also focus on the bottom of the feet and relax these. Then I focus on the upper feet and relax these. Then I come to the ankles and relax these and keep moving up to the legs and other parts of the body and so on.

Sometimes, in my teaching, I have combined this method with visualization of white light filling the different parts of the body from the head to the toes. This is a beautiful way to use the intelligence and imaginative and visual faculty of the mind to fill the body with deep relaxation and to create a sanctuary of peace for one self.

Of course, Hatha Yoga is important for many people and sitting in meditation with a straight spine has its own health and energy oriented benefits. Meditation on energy centers along the spine is facilitated by sitting straight in a cross-legged posture. It also helps in doing certain pranayama and deep breathing exercises.

For many people who cannot sit cross- legged, sitting straight on a chair with support for the elbows is helpful. There are many ways to meditate. The main thing is that one should be comfortable in one’s posture.

Sincere Practice Leads to Self-Discovery

One, who is serious about meditation and relaxation and practices it with sincerity, slowly discovers what postures and exercises are the most helpful for her/his body and mind. Each person is unique in terms of what they find useful.

Finding a good yoga teacher is much easier today than it was when I was teaching. Back in the 1970s, in the U.S. and other Western countries, Yoga was popular only in big cities like Manhattan and Los Angles among the actors and actresses and the elite. But now it has become more mainstream and one can find Yoga classes in virtually any city.

Deep body relaxation seems to be universally attractive to people, because it allows for letting go of accumulated tension. It is easy to learn and do and with practice and experience becomes natural.